DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis speaks to members of the media alongside his wife Philippa outside the county government building on Wednesday. Ellis retook office for the remainder of his dwindling term that expires at the end of the year. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Former DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis will be paid $755,000 to reimburse his legal defense costs after the Georgia Supreme Court overturned his conviction.
The DeKalb Board of Commissioners voted 5-2 on Tuesday to make the payment, which is allowed under state law when a government official is found not guilty or charges are dismissed.
The compensation to Ellis covers the amount paid to his legal team through two trials and a successful appeal. After the Georgia Supreme Court threw out his convictions, District Attorney Sherry Boston dropped the charges of attempted extortion and perjury.
“DeKalb made the right decision. It’s the fair decision to make," said Craig Gillen, who was Ellis’ lead attorney. “Even though he has been repaid the attorney fees, he simply cannot be repaid in any way for the time that he spent away from his wife and his children as a result of this case. That precious time cannot be given back.”
Ellis, who was twice elected as DeKalb’s chief executive, served eight months in prison after a jury found him guilty in July 2015. He had been accused of strong-arming county contractors into giving him campaign contributions.
He didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.
The Supreme Court ruled in November that Ellis didn’t receive a fair trial because he wasn’t allowed to present evidence that could have cleared him.
Kathie Gannon, the DeKalb Commission’s presiding officer, said the payment is appropriate.
“Of course, it’s a lot of money,” she said. “When a person in their capacity as an elected official is found not guilty of a crime, they can be reimbursed for their defense.”